"Tsaar" is the Yiddish word for grief.
Is your idea of traveling visiting scenes of "tragish" (tragic) and
horrific sites? Have you ever heard the terms "Dark Tourism," "Grief Tourism" or
"poorism"? This is when travelers seek "tragedye" (tragedy) by
traveling to sites associated with death and suffering.
As a New Yorker, I've seen Ground Zero. Yes, I've visited the Nazi extermination
camp at Auschwitz in Poland.
Chuck Vadum ("A Visit to Terezin") wrote, "Visiting a concentration camp is not
an enjoyable experience, yet I believe it is an intensely valuable one. It
provides you with a focal point for everything you've seen in films and read in
books about the Holocaust. It also helps you to view events in your own life
with a new perspective..."
Yes, I've seen The Anne Frank House in Amsterdam, the former hiding place where
she wrote her diary during World War II. Perhaps this is MY way to trying to
understand something about humanity.
Danny Gold (Lastexitmag.com) wrote, "Poorism,"
grief tourism and dark tourism are terms which refer to methods of travel that
focus on the less positive aspects of foreign countries, whether it be sites of
previous massacres, cities torn apart by recent wars, or broken down slums of
the third world." He continues, "The world is to be experienced, be it in gaudy
foreign nightclubs or destitute shanty towns. No one seems bothered when people
line up for tours to gawk at Hollywood mansions in the hills, or cruise along
the different 5th avenues of the world. I'd rather have people visiting shanty
towns, having their eyes opened to what life is truly like for most of the world
than being blinded by the dizzying falsities and gilded wastefulness of the
No, I'm not interested in the Titanic 100-year memorial cruise, scheduled to
sail exactly 100 years after the ill-fated voyage on 4/10/1912. The cruise
departs from Southampton, UK, and will follow Titanic's original itinerary,
passing Cherbourg, calling at Cobh, crossing the Atlantic and arriving at the
site where the Titanic sank exactly 100 years ago. At this exact site, a "denkom"
(memorial) service will be held to pay tribute to the brave passengers and
crew who perished on that fateful night. The journey continues to Nova Scotia
for a visit to the cemetery where the Titanic victims were interred. "Der
prayz"? (The cost?) From $3,900 per person, double occupancy. According to
Marie Drennan (bortonoverseas.com),
this particular sailing is selling rather quickly and is at 60-70% capacity
I get sufficient enjoyment just re-reading the late Sam Levenson's 1973 book,
"In One Era & Out the Other." Levinson's mother, who did not live in our
clock-eyed world, didn't need a "kalendar" or "luakh" (Jewish
calendar). When asked, "When was I born, Mama?" she replied, "How could I
forget? You were born on the night the Titanic sank."
Nor would I go aboard Royal Caribbean's gigantic 3,100-passenger Navigator of
the Seas and stop at a north Haiti beach. Royal Caribbean deposits the tourists
on the picturesque peninsula of Labadie, which was unaffected by the Haiti "erd-tsiternish"
(earthquake). This island has been called "private paradise"; it has pristine
beaches and spectacular water activities.
I question how Royal Caribbean can dock in Haiti despite nearby devestation.
Tourists are going to parasail, snorkel and chow down barbecue close to where
100,000 to 200,000 people have died: infants, "kinder," teenagers, mothers,
fathers, the whole "meshpocheh."
How can a "pasazhir" (passenger) enjoy a private-themed water park at
this time? Haiti is the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere. The
population lives on less than a "dolar" a day. "Shlimazel, vohin gaist
du? Tsum oreman!" (Bad fortune. Where goest thou? To the poor man!)
CEO, Adam Goldstein, said that changing cruise itineraries to avoid a Labadie
port call would only cause further pain to Haiti, as Royal Caribbean is an
economic engine for the country. "It would just be adding on to the disaster
circumstances they are already facing there."
On January 2, 2010 I wrote the following e-mail to the website,
"I've been reading about the term 'grief tourism' and 'dark tourist.' Yes, many
Jewish and non-Jewish people travel to sites associated with death and
suffering. Jews visit The Anne Frank House and the extermination camps. Perhaps
they do so in an attempt to understand "mentshhayt" (humanity). However,
when I read that the Royal Caribbean's Navigator of the Seas is stopping at a
north Haiti beach, I felt that was crossing the line. What do our rabbi's say
about "grief travel"?
Rabbi Reuben Lauffer responded:
"As you point out it is not an easy thing to quantify. Is touring Auschwitz
acceptable but the beaches of Haiti not? Yes, I think so. If they were stopping
at Haiti to show them the catastrophic destruction and loss of life that sounds
like it could be something very beneficial - to show people, thank God, who are
most detached from death and devastation - the aftermath and perhaps teach them
to be just a little kinder and gentler in their own personal lives. But not to
treat the calamity as if it never occurred, or even worse, that it did but it
does not effect me in any way is a travesty and I would hope that people had
more empathy and common sense than that."
When I asked Rabbi Anchelle Perl the same question, via e-mail, he replied......
The timing for the Cruise was somewhat off [even in bad taste] but it wasn't
their fault. Perhaps if they had stopped and included a formal gathering of
prayer would have been better accepted.
In general "grief tourism" is important. It keeps alive the memory of its
location and its larger meaning i.e. visiting the concentration camps. Keeping
the memory of our past and building from it for the future is a very important
principle in Jewish life."
In conclusion, the "gut nayes" (good news): Passengers will be able to
donate to Food for the Poor's Haiti Relief Fund via charges to their onboard
ship account...and Royal Caribbean will make a minimum $1 million contribution
to the Haiti relief effort through support of various organizations involved in
the relief effort.
Marjorie Gottlieb Wolfe is the author of a new book titled, "Yiddish for Dog &
Cat Lovers." To order, click here:
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